It happened again this year, just like every other year. As summer faded into fall, carefree weekends spent relaxing at the pool were quickly replaced by frenzied weeks bursting with appointments and commitments. Although I desperately tried to cling to the undeniable leisure of August, I knew that a more serious September would inevitably arrive. Now that it’s here, September has once again brought with it the unmistakable signs of “back-to-school.”
While children engage in back-to-school rituals such as picking out new clothes, buying school supplies, or getting a haircut, our adult rituals are much less concrete. For adults, the transition is more about an attitude shift than a shopping list. For example, this is the time of year that I revisit the professional goals I set earlier in the year and ask myself, what I have accomplished? What’s left to achieve? Earlier this year, after reading Heide Abelli’s blog 10 Online Business Courses Every Employee Should Take in 2019, I set a goal to complete all ten courses this year. September 15th is National Online Learning Day in the US, making it the perfect time to reflect on what I learned from those courses so far, and decide what courses best align to the next steps in my professional development aspirations.
The Unique Role of a Program and Project Manager
As with any job role, my position as a project and program manager brings with it a unique set of challenges. Often, I lead projects for which I have some level of responsibility, but little or no direct authority. Understanding the importance of meeting deadlines and facilitating open communication is critical in this type of role. Therefore, I chose to start my journey through the ten online courses with four courses that specifically address these challenges.
Defining Alternative Solutions to a Problem
This course helped me to further develop skills in making effective and timely decisions based on an objective evaluation of alternative courses of action to a defined problem. Specifically, I learned to identify the problem, define possible solutions, analyze the options, and decide on the best path forward. We’ve all experienced when a project stalls due to various challenges. That’s when this critical thinking skillset becomes most valuable; otherwise, the team may flounder in a state of indecision or analysis paralysis.
Forging Ahead with Perseverance and Resilience
The ability to break down barriers and overcome obstacles is beneficial to employees at all levels. Within the context of managing a project, however, these skills are essential. This course helped me to better handle change, uncertainty, and disappointments, thus enabling me (and the project team) to productively move forward and continue to contribute effectively. Project teams are often formed to identify how to overcome an obstacle or work through (or around) a barrier. It’s the perseverance and resilience of the team members that often contribute to the speed and efficiency at which this is accomplished.
Developing a Personal Accountability Framework
Project management involves setting expectations, assigning responsibilities, and accepting personal accountability. There are milestones to be met, deadlines on which to deliver, and objectives to accomplish. This course provided a framework to achieve each of these goals, despite the challenges which may interfere with success. I especially liked the topics about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-specific), and developing an action plan to accomplish them, as shown here:
Without documented goals, how will you know you have completed a project? An accountability framework helps you think through what you want to achieve and how you might achieve it. It also helps identify what might get in the way of maximizing your accountability.
Encouraging Team Communication and Collaboration
My office is in a different city than any of my team members. In effect, I am a remote team member. This makes effective team communication even more vital. From this course, I learned how crucial it is to trust and respect teammates and to carefully consider others’ point of view. On project teams, very little is accomplished in a vacuum; it’s the team that brings together an array of opinions and experiences to achieve goals. It takes effective communication and collaboration to ensure success.
There are six more courses for me to complete. Before selecting the next one, I plan to first review my career goals for the remainder of this year. What about you? This September, I challenge you to observe National Online Learning Day, by going “back-to-school” to brush up on those professional skills you want to master. Start by taking a look at Skillsoft’s Business Skills Training portfolio, and ask yourself which courses will have the most significant impact on your current career goals. Unsure? Why not dive into Heide Abelli’s top 10 course list.
Then, as your professional journey progresses, and you aspire to new goals, revisit the list to see what else you can learn to accelerate your progress. If you continue with this lifelong learning mindset, maybe by next September, you’ll already have gotten a head start on your back-to-school online learning goals!
Nancy Santacesaria is the Project & Program Manager, Leadership, Business, and Digital Transformation Content Solutions at Skillsoft.